Society to celebrate golden anniversary with ‘Chautauqua’ and block party |

Society to celebrate golden anniversary with ‘Chautauqua’ and block party

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

As part of its 50th-anniversary celebration this year, the Aspen Historical Society will hold an event next month on the Wheeler/Stallard Museum grounds that promises “irreverent fun and thoughtful conversation,” according to the group.

A large tent will be erected on the museum grounds for the July 8 to 11 event called “Chautauqua,” a reference to the adult-education movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that brought cosmopolitan culture to small towns across the West.

On Monday, the Aspen City Council will consider a temporary-use permit request from the historical society to erect a 26-foot-tall teepee on the museum property, located at 620 W. Bleeker St. If approved, the teepee will be in place for the Chautauqua and will remain on the grounds through mid-October to enhance the society’s current exhibit about the Ute tribe’s longtime presence in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Christine Benedetti, director of marketing for the group, said a vast range of activities are planned for the four days of Chautauqua: lunch talks, keynote speakers, children’s storytelling, character presentations, sunset film screenings and more. Much of it will be free.

Dr. Patricia Limerick, director for the Center of the American West, will host evening conversations with author Ted Conover, political commentator Michael Kinsley, Buffalo Bill Museum director Steve Friesen and local cowboy Tony Vagneur. The speakers will take the stage at 7 p.m. daily.

Each morning will feature body-bending classes including yoga, Zumba, tai chi and aerobics. The sessions will be followed by informal discussions with local speakers, including Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson, Aspen Yoga Society founder Gina Murdock and others. Coffee and pastries will be served.

Short films and newly digitized archival footage from the society’s collection will be available for viewing in the tent. Next door to the tent, youths may participate in the Young Chautauqua camp, geared for ages 9 to 18. They will pick certain characters from Aspen’s past for research and re-enactment.

At lunchtime, adults can take in brown-bag lunch conversations as kids listen to stories inside the teepee. Lunch conversation topics include “Paving the Way, Building Our Unique Culture,” moderated by Loren Jenkins with Bob Murray, Jackie Wogan, Bob Craig, and Charlie Paterson; “50 Years of Creative Expression,” moderated by Harry Teague with Missy Thorne, David Hauter and Dick Carter; “50 Years of Irreverence,” moderated by Paul Anderson with Brent Gardner-Smith, Conover, Ernie Ashley and Andrew Travers; and “50 Years of Building Community,” moderated by Bill Kane with Chris Bendon, Ann Mullins and Andy Stone.

Each afternoon, a set of four historical Aspen figures will come back to life during character presentations. Local actors will resurrect D.R.C. Brown, Bil Dunaway, Jerome Wheeler, Fritz Benedict, Gretl Uhl, Isabel and Stuart Mace, Fred Iselin, Mrs. Gillespie, Lou Deane, Fabi Benedict, Joan Metcalf, Elizabeth Paepcke, Hunter S. Thompson, Herbert Bayer and Freddie Fisher. Afterward, students from the Aspen Music Festival and School will entertain on the lawn. Character presentations will run from 3:30 to 6 p.m.

At night, guests are encouraged to bring sleeping bags and snacks to enjoy during screenings of the 1960s films “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “Pink Panther,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “King of Hearts.”

Ticket prices are $20 for keynote speakers and $10 for character presentations. A single-day pass can be purchased for $25, and a four-day pass is available for $100.

After the Chautauqua, on July 12, the society will throw a 50th- anniversary block party on the museum grounds. It will feature dinner, drinks and dancing through the decades, with a live band. It will be a ticketed event: $1,000 for a table of 10; $100 for individual reserved seating and $50 for reserved seating.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the Chautauqua or the block party, visit or call 970-925-3721.

Sponsors of the Chautauqua include the city of Aspen, Bethel Party Rentals, Alchemy Sound, Aspen Community Foundation, Related Colorado, US Bank, Colorado Humanities, Aspen Public Radio, The Aspen Times, Aspen Valley Hospital, Peach’s Corner Café, Spellbinders, Kemo Sabe, the Buffalo Collection, the Aspen Music Festival and School, Boogie’s Diner and Aspen Film.

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